The Treasure State is rich in its citizenry—men and women of distinguished talents and golden hearts. Truly, the state’s greatest treasure is its people.

In this vein, the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame (MCHF), in collaboration with the C.M. Russell Museum, strives to highlight an elite few that represent the “art and soul” of the American West. In 2018, Charlie Russell became the inaugural recipient of the award dubbed “the Saddle of Honor.” He was an obvious first choice, representing the ideals of both organizations. In 2019, however, the MCHF was overwhelmed with candidates from throughout Montana’s history. After some deliberation, it was decided that (henceforth) the award should seek to celebrate someone contemporary. Every member on the committee was asked to submit two names in the running. Nearly everyone came up with the same name: Jay Joseph Contway.

Contway is a bronze artist of international acclaim. His accolades include inductions into the Calgary Stampede Western Art Show Hall of Fame in 2008, the C.M. Russell Museum Skull Society of Artists 2014-2015, the Montana Pro-Rodeo Cowboy Hall and Wall of Fame in 2016, and the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center in 2016.

Contway’s success comes not only from artistic skill, but from experience. He raised sheep and cattle on the family homestead at Malta. He was a rodeo champion, roping calves across the country. He bred horses at Great Falls with his wife, Lynn. Every bronze is sculpted with genuine authority. Contway doesn’t simply portray the Western lifestyle; he’s lived it.

On September 6, 2019, Contway was surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues at an award ceremony hosted at the C.M. Russell Museum. Rain forced the guests indoors but was far from spoiling the day; more than 100 people eagerly crowded into the Ah Wah Cous Room to join in the celebration. With a roar of applause, they stood to congratulate the artist as he was presented his award, a bronze replica of Charlie Russell’s saddle, sculpted by famed bronze artist… Jay Contway.